Petersen battling hard to overcome the hype

Chris Petersen fully admitted Monday during his weekly press conference that he's battling wars on a number of fronts. First, he's trying to get his team back in a rhythm following their bye week. Second, he's working hard at preparing UW for their Saturday showdown with a beleaguered Oregon State team. And third, he's trying to tamp out the hype that the No. 5 Huskies have generated.

Opening - “Good bye week, back in the mix now. I hope it was a good bye week, trying to get back into our rhythm a little bit here and away we go for the second half of our season.”

Did you watch the Utah-Oregon State game? - “I watched some of it, but we watched the real tape, not the TV stuff.”

Do you encourage the players to watch games like that? - “They are going to watch it anyway, so we never make a big deal about whether they’re going to watch it on TV or not.”

What are the hallmarks of a Gary Andersen team? - “I think he’s doing a good job. When you watch them play, the tapes that we study, you can see them getting better. You really can. They play hard. It’s so typical. They give you a lot of different looks on defense, they are kind of all over the place. Guys get off blocks, they run to the ball. They make you earn things. He’s just a tough coach in terms of, he’s going to stick to his process and keep grinding away and he’ll get his guys better, there’s no question about that. I’ve seen it for a long time.”

What is your hope for the players when you give them time off? - “Just that they do what they need to do in terms of, their days are so packed with not a lot of time to recharge and recover a little bit, so I think some guys - the guys that need a bunch of time in the training room will get that extra time without having to go out on the practice field. Those that don’t need that that aren’t really around here, aren’t really around the building, to take a few days to not come into the building. It wasn’t a bunch of time where they weren’t in the building because we did have some lifting going on a little bit, but that they would get that and then have time to be a little bit of a normal student and catch up with as much school work as they can and all those type of things. And then on the weekend not have to worry about turning up the dial and competing. Now we’ve got to get back into our rhythm to finish the rest of the season.”

On pace for Chico and Shane Brostek to get back? - “I think so.”

Still No. 1 in the country in turnover margin. How do you emphasize that and reinforce that? - “I kind of chuckle at that one because every coach in America talks about that. In the past when we really haven’t been effective and efficient it’s not like…we probably work on it more when those things happen. It is something that we pay attention to and the guys have been playing hard and creating turnovers and our offense has done a pretty good job of not giving anything away for the most part. But I also think it’s a game-by-game…we could lose the turnover battle this weekend and still be number-one in the country or really tops in the country and it means nothing. So we always make sure our kids know that. We’re doing what we need to do overall, but each week - with every stat, I guess it is, but really that one there we pay attention to. It is game-by-game. That can change the game.”

What do you think of your pass protection so far? - “I think it’s improved. I think it’s gotten better. We’ll go back and put some tape on from last year and there’s just a lot of improvement across the board on a lot of things - that being one of them. I just kind of shake my head…I’m not sure if I should be really excited that these kids, we’ve gotten so much better, or just so irritated at how it went last year. I walk out of there with mixed emotions going are you kidding me? But it really needs to be the one where we’re pleased with how much better they are playing.”

Is Jake getting pressured still a bit too much for your liking? - “It’s never going to be…that’s the goal on defense is to get to the quarterback. And they are gonna. The quarterback’s job is to be able to stand in there and make throws when guys are in his face and maybe you do get hit on one play and then you don’t lose your nerve the rest of the game. That’s the cat-and-mouse game that’s gone on forever in football: try and hit the guy and try to knock him down and think about it and throw the ball in an uncomfortable way. The quarterback’s job is just the opposite, so it’s never going to be where he doesn’t get touched, where everything’s good. But I think it’s been much improved and been good enough or we wouldn’t be throwing the ball the way we are.”

How often do you put on tape of last year’s stuff? - “It just depends. It depends if we have some time to self scout or the opponent that we’re playing, if we need to put that back on, which we always do.  Just some different things throughout the season. If we’re going back and looking at other things. We’re kind of all over the place with that, so it’s not a set thing. Sometimes you lose track of certain games, of how they went, that might not have anything to do with who you’re playing and you look at it if you’re looking at a scheme or something.”

How much do you self scout during byes versus looking ahead to the next opponent? - “It’s always kind of the next opponent. And certainly self scout. That was first and foremost, taking a look at ourselves and seeing if we’re missing anything on ourself. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest amongst the trees when you’re in the minute detail of everything every week and going so fast. This was good to take sometime and really step back and look at it and get a couple things that ‘hey, we need to pay attention to this and clean this up.’ I think that’s really good. But to go further down the road, not so much. Part of it is having the urgency of the game plan right in front of you. You have these extra days and you’re looking at stuff and go ‘okay, yeah, this will be good.’ And you kind of digest. You need that timeline to push. ‘We’re making this decision. Let’s go.’ We’ve kind of learned that sometimes it’s not better to have all this extra time as a coach game planning.”

Do you ever look at the state of the conference during a bye week? - “No. Not really. Just kind of ourselves and our next opponent.”

On recruiting - “It’s hard to say. The recruiting just goes on non-stop. It just does. Like every single day. You’d like to sit here and think you just do football but you don’t. There’s just always something going on. With that being said, it’s always such a part of what we do. We did get a chance to get out and there was a lot of ground covered that way. Certainly the reception is real good. Real positive, real good. Yeah. Exciting time and I think all that’s been on track and we feel good about where we’re headed.”

What lessons did you learn at Boise State about dealing with expectations to run the table? - “We’ve had that since the start of this season. I was so irritated with you guys and you were so irritated with me. It hasn’t changed. I mean that sincerely. You guys want to keep putting these expectations on these kids and all this stuff. All we’re trying to do is win the next game. And that’s the bottom line. If we can beat you guys on this game and keep our kids focused then that’s really good for the Dawgs. If not - because it’s hard. It really is hard. With all the stuff outside, there’s just so many outside influences. As much as you know, you probably still don’t know how much is coming at these kids from all different directions with everybody. Human nature is what it is. We’re foolish to think that doesn’t have an effect on our team and our mindset. That’s one of the big battles that we have as a team, as a coaching staff, is to keep these guys focused on being focused. We had that conversation yesterday. I think that’s an every week topic. I really do. I think it’s really, really important. It’s as important as anything we can do. It’s just the nature of the beast, as we know. But for us and for our guys the most important thing is just to pay attention to Oregon State and try to play a little bit better and play better as a team. We just had this exact conversation yesterday. We were really, really aware of it. So we’ll see if we can do 

Was there a point at Boise State where something didn’t work, in that regard, and you can refer to that now? - “I think one of the reasons we did so well is those kids did what we were asking them to do. They were pretty focused on the important things, and I think our coaching staff did a really good job of paying attention to those things and fighting that battle all the time.”

Are there telltale danger signs in regard to that? - “No, I don’t think so. I just know what I see, and how (it’s not possible) that doesn’t have an effect – it just does. And I think they’re probably irritated with me a little bit in terms of how much we talk about it and come at them. I think they also understand that it is really important and how it can have an effect. As coaches we’ve been doing this a long time and we know how it is. We have more experience with these things, and this is the first time for a lot of these guys to experience this type of stuff. Let’s be honest, it’s kind of fun to have somebody write really cool things about you and tell you how great you are. That’s just human nature, so how can that not affect you? So to just kind of stay insulated, and spend your time on the things that you need to. I think one of the things that’s been so great about these guys is how they’ve competed with an edge. So how do you keep doing that and just really compete at your best? And you always have to have an edge when you compete at your best. Everything on the outside kind of works against that right now.”

Jake Browning will sometimes reference things the media has said or written. Are you OK with that? - “I mean, that’s what I’m saying. There’s no way you can’t not hear stuff. When he does an interview with you guys, he’s got to answer the question. You’ve got to tell him how great he is. He can’t – ‘I didn’t hear that, stop that.’”

Would you rather we tell him he’s terrible? - “Yeah, I would. Can we get on the same page there? (Laughs.) It’s just about keeping it as real as you can. You’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are when you play these games, it’s really true. You put the tape on and you’re like, ‘oh, man, that happened?’ There’s been some really cool plays, some really spectacular plays. There’s been some really bad ones. But overall, these guys have played good, but they’ve played good for a reason. I think it’s all these certain reasons we’re talking about, in terms of their mindset and their preparation, how hard they practice, how hard they lift weights. And it’s really hard to keep that pace up. So the natural tendency when things are going good is to maybe just (think), ‘we’re OK.’ Now we’re in the middle of the season. So that’s the battle we deal with.”

On the fake zone-read option pitch play they debuted against Stanford - “Let me just tell you this. We steal everything. I’ll just say that. I mean, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an original thought in my life. But I know a good thing when I see it, and we steal everything.”

Alabama ran it last week - “I’m sure. I know Jonathan Smith got a ton of calls on it. It’s like, it’s not even ours.”

What do you call it? - “It was just an option play with a little bit of the flavor that we put on it." 

On the biggest challenge of coming back from a bye week - “Getting back into the rhythm, the rhythm of the week. So on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – we practice really hard, in my opinion, on Tuesdays, and they’re hard. And it is really hard for these guys to practice at the level we want them to, especially by Wednesday. Because Tuesday is, they’re up early, we’re in meetings early, and then we go out there and practice really hard, and if they’ve gotten sleep the night before and rested and recovered like they’re supposed to, you can get through Tuesday pretty well, then you come right back on Wednesday with another really hard – it’s not only hard physically, it’s hard mentally, with the parts of the gameplan that go in, that there’s new wrinkles and we have to get it right. So just to demand that standard, you have to get into a rhythm to really be able to do that, so I think the kids were into a pretty good rhythm, and now that’s kind of out. But you’re hoping they’re refreshed and recharged a little bit, and understand that we can jump right back into it. But we’ve found over the times, even like in fall camp, if we give them a day off, which they need, we’ll come back and think this is going to be the greatest practice ever. They were really tired and we gave them a day off. And it’s usually not, for whatever reason. It takes them a minute to get back into that rhythm. And so we just pay attention to that. But I think we feel good. I think after six games and a lot of repetitions in practice and games, it’s a good time to get rested up and I think they know what to expect and away we go.”

On starting fast in first quarter of game - “Like we were talking about earlier, just watching tape from earlier it’s just head-scratching sometimes how we played last year. And it has to do with a lot of factors: being young; schemes not being as completely familiar — that split-second hesitation of really knowing what to do. And we talked about it last year — everything was so hard last year. We couldn’t afford to drop a ball because everything was so hard. We just had to earn everything. I think there’s just more skill across the board. They’ve just gotten better. They understand what we’re doing. They’ve practiced hard and built skill, and I think that’s the thing that shows up to me — just, we’re better.”

Are you getting everything you need from your tight ends? - “I think somebody else asked me that. I think my son asked me that. … I think our tight ends are doing a really good job. Those tight ends, first and foremost, are here to mix it up and get in there with the big boys and all that. That’s what we need them to do. But I think that they’ve actually overall probably been a little more effective in some of the pass-game stuff we’re doing. You’ve go to remember, Josh Perkins last year, to me he was more of a wide receiver — he was that big inside wide receiver. So he caught a lot of balls being labeled a tight end. So he was unique and a hybrid that we could do some different stuff with. And these guys are a little more true tight-endish. So I think those tight ends can be weapons, sneaking them across the middle, in between seams. And I think Jake is pretty good at throwing that. We’re always looking to, hey, can we get these guys the ball? Is there something miss there? But I think, for how our offense is going, it’s on target, on track.”

Oregon State has used the fly sweep forever. Is there something special your defense has to do to prepare for that? - “Yeah, and they do it in different ways. So when you get different formations, that changes leverages and forces and all those things. So they’re really good at mixing that up. It’s a really effective play for them. So we’ll see how we do. We run a little bit of that ourselves. I think that’s one of the things I like as the head coach looking back, we do a lot of different things on offense depending on who we’re playing, but one of the things I like about that is our defense sees a lot of things during the year (during practice) so something isn’t completely novel to them, like here we go. Now, we’ve still got to defend it, but it’s not something they haven’t had to see before.”

Sounds like Oregon State QB Darell Garretson broke his ankle - “Well, (Marcus) McMaryion played against us last year, so we’ll have some tape there. And I know when they put him in (against Utah on Saturday) he went right down the field and scored. I say this all the time: We defend systems. Certainly, you’ve got to pay attention to certain guys more than others, but we don’t change our whole preparation based on (one player). It seems like we’ve had this every other game, at least: Is this quarterback playing? Is that quarterback playing? So we try to defend their system, and we do have some tape.”

Is it hard to evaluate tape like Oregon State-Utah when the weather/conditions were so bad? - “Really hard. And I think when we played that Arizona State game a couple years ago in the windstorm, you put that tape on and watch it … you can see people’s jerseys blowing and that kind of stuff. That’s almost impossible to throw the ball. So that’s one of the things that really changes the game, is wind. You know, rain you can deal with; it seems a lot easier with the AstroTurf and those things. But the wind is so hard in the pass game. It changes everything. It changes the run game. So it can be really hard to watch. … You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt.”

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